The Smart Set: Lauren Cerand’s Weekly Events

The Smart Set is a weekly feature, compiled by Lauren Cerand, that appears Mondays and highlights the best of the week to come. Special favor is given to New York’s independent booksellers and venues, and low-cost and free events. Please submit details to by the Thursday before publication for consideration.

The Seven Deadly Sins Edition

12.6: [Pride] Kira Salak, author of The Cruelest Journey, reads at The Half King:

Kira Salak is a young woman with a history of seeking impossible challenges. She grew up relishing the exploits of the great Scottish explorer Mungo Park and set herself the daunting goal of retracing his fatal journey down West Africa’s Niger river for 600 miles to Timbuktu. In so doing she became the first person to travel alone from Mali’s Old Segou to “the golden city of the Middle Ages,” and, legend has it, the doorway to the end of the world. In the face of the hardships she knew were to come, it is amazing that she could have been so sanguine about her journey’s beginning: “I have the peace and silence of the wide river, the sun on me, a breeze licking my toes, the current as negligible as a faint breath. Timbuktu seems distant and unimaginable.” Enduring tropical storms, hippos, rapids, the unrelenting heat of the Sahara desert and the mercurial moods of this notorious river, she traveled solo through one of the most desolate regions in Africa where little had changed since Mungo Park was taken captive by Moors in 1797. Dependent on locals for food and shelter, each night she came ashore to stay in remote mud-hut villages on the banks of the Niger, meeting Dogan sorceresses and tribes who alternately revered and reviled her- so remarkable was the sight of an unaccompanied white woman paddling all the way to Timbuktu. Indeed, on one harrowing stretch she barely escaped harm from men who chased her in wooden canoes, but she finally arrived, weak with dysentery, but triumphant, at her destination. There, she fulfilled her ultimate goal by buying the freedom of two Bella slaves with gold.

7:00pm, FREE.

12.7: [Greed] Too many stellar events to count, and I want desperately to go to them all, as usual… The excellent Necessary Translations series welcomes New Directions Press at The Kitchen for an evening featuring readings in translation by Alexander Kluge, Paul Auster, Liz Werner, Eliot Weinberger, and surprise guests. 7:00pm, $10. Nick Hornby and Sarah Vowell in discussion at Housing Works. 6:30pm, $14; “Admission includes a copy of Hornby’s Polysyllabic Spree, the first title in the new Believer Books series.” Tara Bray Smith (West of Then), Thai Jones (A Radical Line), and Anna Cypra (Assembling My Father) read at KGB. 7:00pm, FREE.

12.8: [Envy]: I do eat a lot of vegetables, but my eyes will be green for a different reason if you decide to attend “Seeing Double: Exile Artists Interpret Their Homeland,” the Aperture Foundation Lecture at Parsons (since I can’t). 7:00pm, FREE.

12.9: [Anger] The Earth Insitute at Columbia University presents a talk entitled, “Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Petroleum Dependency.” 7:00pm, FREE.

12.10: [Lust] Thumb through a copy of The Sexual Life of Catherine M., the beyond racy and often quite rude adventures of a Parisian art critic who sleeps around, and around, and around, and around, with few complaints and no regrets. The author recounts one sexual encounter after another, and dialogue between characters is spare but entertaining: “What sort of people did you meet at orgies? Middle class types?”

12.11: [Gluttony] “The Museum of Chinese in the Americas (MoCA) examines a central image of Chinese American life — the Chinese restaurant, in ‘Have You Eaten Yet?: The Chinese Restaurant in America’… Often the first introduction to Chinese culture for many Americans, the Chinese restaurant has functioned since the nineteenth century as a site of cultural exchange.” Saturday’s hours: 12:00–6:00pm, $3 suggested. [first spotted at The Food Section]

12.12: [Sloth] Easy enough, and just the right day for it, too.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.